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Bronx Park

Niles Triangle

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

It is difficult to overstate the impact that William White Niles (1861-1935) had in the development of Bronx Parks. Niles was born in 1861 in Waterford, New York, to William and Isabel Niles. He attended Dartmouth College and Albany Law School, and the practiced law in New York City.

In 1881, Niles helped to found the New York Park Association. Presenting comparative studies of parkland in foreign cities, predictions of rapid population growth in New York, and rising land values, the Association called for more land for parks in the southern Bronx, which had been annexed by New York City in 1874. This effort culminated in the 1884 New Parks Act and the city’s 1888-90 purchase of lands for Van Cortlandt, Claremont, Crotona, Bronx, St. Mary’s, and Pelham Bay Parks and the Mosholu, Pelham, and Crotona Parkways. The new properties increased the city’s parkland fivefold, from about 1000 acres to about 5000 acres.

Niles joined the New York Bar in 1885, established the firm of Niles & Johnson in 1891, and was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1895. In 1900, he served as counsel to subcommittee on borough government of the New York City Charter-Revision Commission. He was also a member of several civic and social organizations. Niles served as president of the Bronx Society of Arts and Sciences and the Bronx Board of Trade, vice-president of the Citizens Union and the Tree Planting Association, and a member of the City Planning Commission. He married Florence M. Brown in 1912, and they had three children named Charlotte, Roma, and William.

Niles continued to strive for the development of Bronx parkland along the Bronx River. The 23-mile river had been greatly contaminated, and Niles was one of many that called for a solution to protect the quality of Bronx Park. The Bronx River Sewer Commission was established in 1905 and the Bronx River Parkway Commission was created in 1906 to reduce the sewage and beautify the edge of the river. Niles, a Bronx resident, served as the vice-president of the Bronx River Parkway Commission from 1907 to 1925. The commission sought the acquisition of land along the river, and the long process was hailed as a success when the Bronx River Parkway opened in 1925. Niles became head of the Taconic State Park Commission in 1927. He died in Riverdale-on-Hudson on January 12, 1935.

Niles Triangle is located along Bronx Boulevard at East 226 Street. The site was acquired as part of the greater Bronx Park between December 1888 and January 1889. Today, Niles Triangle has benches, a flagpole with a yardarm, shrubs and five tall Pin oaks (Quercus palustris).

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